Policy and security in the cyberspace
By virtue of the functions attributed to it by law in the field of foreign relations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation leads political-diplomatic action in matters relating to cyberspace and has supported the process of structuring the national cyber architecture by creating a Unit for Cyberspace Policy and Security at the DG for Political Affairs and Security.
While incidents, even major ones, have highlighted the destructive potential and the risks of instability inherent in the cyber threat, the pandemic has helped speed up and make processes, comparisons and needs relating to digitalisation much more topical. The cyberspace is not only one of the main grounds for competition but also for international cooperation, as well as for defending the ideals and values of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, which have always inspired Italy’s actions.
The Unit is working on the one hand to build a free, secure, accessible cyber space that respects people’s rights and provides opportunities for all, and on the other to strengthen international ties on this issue. Because of its strong technological and innovative aspects it also contributes to creating an ideal framework for promoting the country as a whole.
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Within the EU
Cooperation between EU Member States is a fundamental and significant issue for Italy. Following is an overview of the key committees in this field:
EU’s Cybersecurity Strategy for the Digital Decade: The new European Strategy aims to strengthen Europe’s collective resilience against cyber threats and ensure that all citizens and businesses can fully benefit from digital services and tools. Among the priority actions that the Foreign Ministry is committed to closely following are: the implementation of the CyberDiplomacy Toolbox, the promotion of the Programme of Action presented by EU countries in the Open Ended Working Group of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, the promotion of dialogues and capacity building with third countries.
EU Cyber Diplomacy Toolbox: a collection of tools aimed at systematising the possible diplomatic actions available to the EU to prevent or respond to malicious actions, in order to maintain peace and stability in the cyberspace. These include the possibility of taking restrictive measures against individuals or entities deemed responsible for malicious actions against one or more EU states.
Within the UN
Since 2004, six Governmental Groups of Experts (GGEs) and one OEWG (Open-ended Working Group, as of 2019) have debated and sought convergence on different aspects of the use of ICTs in the context of international security: standards of responsible behaviour by States, applicability of international law to cyberspace, CBMs, potential threats, capacity building. Italy also took part in the UN OEWG on developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security in 2009-2010. The first OEWG (a second one is about to begin) – open to the entire membership of the UN – closed its work on 12 March, adopting a consensus report that reaffirms the above-mentioned framework and includes among its recommendations a Programme of Action co-sponsored also by EU Member States.
Over the last decade, NATO has tried to adapt its defensive capabilities to the changing nature of cyberspace and related threats: in 2016, it recognised cyberspace as an operational domain and adopted the Cyber Defence Pledge, a tool for consolidating the efforts of the individual Allies in terms of resilience to cyber attacks. The Foreign Ministry is committed – within its remit – to implementing the above, takes part in the improvement of the Guide for responding to cyber activities below the threshold of armed attack and contributes to the provision of special cyber components in the conduct of crisis management exercises and other training activities.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has developed a series of CBMs aimed at addressing possible misperceptions by one State about the use of ICT by other States, thus improving the quality of cooperation among participating States.
During Italy’s chairmanship of the OSCE in 2018, Italy hosted a Cybersecurity Conference, aimed at becoming a platform for sharing and exchanging visions on digital security in the region, to promote cyber resilience also through public-private partnerships and analyse perspectives up to 2025.”